Fixing spinal injuries Opening door to research Adult vs. embryonic cells


of skeptics. The research has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal. Until that happens, it is impossible for others to evaluate the claims about the rats, or the real possibility of using the research in humans soon.
Jerry Silver, a researcher in spinal cord injury at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, said Mr. Keirstead and Geron have made "very strong and remarkable claims" for their stem cell work. When he first heard about the research at a scientific meeting, "I was really excited," but, "I haven't seen it published. And that's a problem."

The technical barriers any stem cell therapy must scale is fertile terrain for skepticism.

In most spinal cord injuries, Mr. Keirstead said, it's not just the severing of a nerve that can cause paralysis. A hard blow to the spine also damages the insulation that wraps the nerves. This insulation is called myelin. Electrical signals will not travel the length of the neuron if myelin is absent.

So Mr. Keirstead's goal was to turn stem cells into a form of cell that will manufacture fresh myelin. These cells are called oligodendrocytes.

First, he had to figure out what combination of chemicals would push stem cells into becoming oligodendrocytes. Then, he had to create pure populations of these cells for transplantation. It's hard enough to figure out nature's code to perfectly transform a stem cell into another cell type. Doing it well enough so that every cell is a myelin maker is harder
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